Sidebar>> History of Fashion: Jan Ernst Matzeliger

Who is this handsome young man? And what’s he got to do with shoes?

During my search for the best shoe repair shops, I came across this photo of Jan Ernst Matzeliger, a man described as the “Pioneer of the US Shoe Industry”. Intrigued by his good looks, I decided to extend my Google search and find out more about him and his contributions to the shoe industry.

First, I know zilch about the people responsible for pioneering the shoe industry. I know a little sum’n sum’n about the history of fashion, and I know for certain the history of thongs (yes, the underwear) because I did a report and presentation on them for my History of Fashion class in college.

Second, as an African American, I was very excited to learn that a black man not only pioneered the shoe industry with his invention of the Mechanical Shoe Laster which allowed shoemakers to produce shoes at an exponentially greater speed and number (150-700 pair per day) rather than using the services of Hand Lasters (who could only produce around 50 shoes per day); but that he also put Lynn, MA on the map as the ‘Shoe Capital of the World’. How cool is that? Massachusetts beat out Italy for the title.

So, on this day, the 125th anniversary of his passing, I would like to pay homage to the man who changed our worlds forever.

Want to learn more about Jan Ernst Matzeliger? Google him!

Photo Credits:

Photo of Matzeliger courtesy of Britannica Encyclopedia

Machine Image courtesy of


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